When a mother of nine was found dead in her Middletown kitchen last week, residents throughout Butler County — and beyond — responded by overwhelming the police department with financial donations and gifts that were presented to the family in time for Christmas.
Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said that, after posting a note on Facebook, he received “10 times” the expected response. There were too many items for one family, so many of the gifts were given to other families in need, he said.
“The giving really is incredible,” Muterspaw said.
That spirit was felt throughout the county from food banks to feeding programs.
The Hamilton Corps of the Salvation Army registered 400 families for Christmas assistance, according to Maj. Persi Sanclemente. She said that represents almost 1,200 children who received a new coat and toys through the Angel Tree Program.
She said children who are recipients of Angel Tree gifts are from families who have applied for Christmas assistance through the social services program of the Salvation Army.
During the application process, the clothing sizes and special needs of the children are determined and written on the application and then transferred to paper “angels” along with the child’s first name, age and sex, according to Sanclemente.
Feed the Hungry, a Middletown program, recently held its annual Christmas party, and through donations from area businesses and individuals, was able to provide gifts to more than 500 children, the most in the 10 years of the program, said Bridget Kinney, chairperson of the event.
“It’s truly, truly awesome,” Kinney said. “People don’t have to give.”
This year, Kinney said, Feed the Hungry received financial assistance from first-time donors and some companies have shown an interest in hosting a toy drive next year, she said.
Students and staff at Edgewood School District responded to a need in the Trenton community by donating more than 10,300 canned and boxed food items and cash gifts to the Edgewood Ministerial Association Food Pantry. The pantry is located in the Mt. Olivet Presbyterian Church in Trenton and provides support to families who live in the Edgewood School District.
At the time of the request, the pantry’s shelves were quickly depleting and it was uncertain how long it could support families, especially with the approaching holiday season, said Pam Hurley, director of the pantry. Learning about this dire situation, every school in the district took action and planned food drives and fundraisers.
Hurley was overwhelmed by the donations, saying the pantry will have enough food to support the needs of the community through the summer.
“We couldn’t be more blessed by the support and generosity of our Edgewood students, families and staff,” Hurley said.
In Middletown, the Salvation Army is “behind” in its fundraising efforts, said Maj. Andrew Murray, who was assigned to Middletown two months ago.
Despite the shortcomings, Murray said he’s in the “faith” business.
“God is going to supply us for what we need,” Murray said. “He always has; He always will.”
Murray said giving is imperative during the holidays because, otherwise, the agency will fall short of its resources in June and July. He said the Middletown Salvation Army provides “emergency food” to 500 people every month.
Pastors Vanessa McQueen and her husband, Fredrick, lead the Sanctuary Christian Fellowship Church, which is located at 117 Park Ave. They felt the church should get involved in dealing with issues facing people who are suffering from not having a meal and other issues that come from poverty.
They met with school officials at Brookwood Elementary and Hamilton High School and volunteered to provide between 15 to 25 meals with all the trimmings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus, they added presents at Christmastime for students.
Zane Lykins, student and family support specialist at Brookwood, said the church has been able to provide 15 to 20 meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past four years.
Lykins was on his way out the door Wednesday afternoon to meet with the church and collect Christmas baskets for about 15 kids this year.
Gina Walters, community full success liaison for Brookwood and Hamilton High School, said the benevolence of the church has helped homeless students.
“It has been a huge blessing,” Walters said of the church’s efforts. “They helped out three high school families this year as well as Brookwood students. Two of the high school kids are still homeless.”